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Stagecoach under fire in every direction for cuts

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Mayor Dr Nik Johnson says he is “appalled” Stagecoach East continues to take Government money to subsidise bus routes whilst at the same time planning to axe 18 of them.

And a petition has already started to reverse the cuts.

Petition · Stop the cancellation of stagecoach bus service 11 & 12 · Change.org

Dr Johnson, the Cambridgeshire, and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) mayor said: “It is unacceptable that despite getting a six-month bus grant Stagecoach are still planning to reduce these vulnerable rural routes.

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“The timing of this news could not come at a worse time. 

“It is of utmost importance to the Combined Authority that our rural bus networks are protected.

“They are vital for so many of our residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, in addressing isolation, enabling inclusion and supporting access to key services.”

He added: “We are appalled that Stagecoach are pressing ahead with such severe changes to the network whilst continuing to accept the funding from the government that is designed to protect it. 

“With this in mind, I have asked officers to prepare to take these threatened routes back out to the market.

“I have also asked that we urgently review and refresh the business case for franchising the bus system in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

A CAPCA spokesperson confirmed that Stagecoach has told them of its intention to withdraw certain bus services.

“The mayor along with other mayoral combined authorities lobbied Government successfully to secure an extension to the Bus Recovery Grant earlier this month.

“The grant is supposed to ensure the current network of bus services can be sustained. Despite requesting this extra money for six months Stagecoach has decided to make service cuts.”

The spokesperson added: “The Combined Authority has been placed in an unacceptable position, to now find ways of sustaining as many bus services as it can and prevent bus users across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough being left stranded.

“We will now explore all options urgently to avoid this happening after 31 October.”  

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats said today the cuts “will devastate vital bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.

The party condemned Stagecoach’s plan and called on government to intervene “to preserve at least a minimum level of public transport for tens of thousands of residents”.

Lib Dem councillor Lorna Dupré said “Stagecoach is planning to devastate the bus network in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough which is a lifeline for many residents of our three cities and our market towns as well as our villages. 

“Every part of the county will be severely affected by these changes.

“Most of the routes between St Ives and surrounding villages will be cut.

“Large villages and towns like Burwell, Soham, Sutton, Melbourn, Bottisham and Godmanchester will not have a bus service anymore.

“There won’t be a bus route that goes to the major business park at Lynch Wood in Peterborough.”

She said: “Residents are worried about how to get their children to school, and fearful for their own jobs if they have no means to get to work.

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“They will be cut off from health care, leisure, and retail.

 “Stagecoach has received millions of pounds in government subsidies over the last two years so that they could maintain bus services through the pandemic.

“And they have continued to make a profit. They are now throwing that back in our faces in a show of contempt for our residents.

“The government failed to get a grip on the bus industry during the pandemic, just throwing money at the problem in the short term rather than introducing sustainable long-term reforms.

“We are now seeing the result, with capricious bus companies able to disregard the needs of bus users.”

In Soham one resident said: “The train service is expensive and infrequent and not free for pensioners.

“Also, the 11 bus is being cancelled so Newmarket, Exning and Burwell residents also affected.

“Come on councillors do something about this massive impact on our lives.”

Soham councillor Mark Goldsack said: “The removal of bus routes serving Soham by Stagecoach is yet another failure of the Combined Authority.

“It is responsible for the service and once again has been found wanting under the current set up.

“As the strategic travel authority, the CPCA own the Stagecoach contract, relationship, and vision.

“It is fair to say that vision appears to be to take maximum government subsidies whilst delivering minimal services. Shame on those involved at CPCA for allowing this to happen.”

Cllr Goldsack added: “I will continue to fight for all routes as well as new ones that link the station and town but unless the mayor makes significant changes to this failed approach residents will see reduced not improved services.

Stagecoach said that “declining services that will not be part of the new network are mainly in the Huntingdonshire and Fenland area”.

These are 11/X11, 12, 18, 25, 39, 915, V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, 22, 30, 35, 66; and Peterborough: 23, 24, 29.

In 2017, months in his 4-year term as mayor, James Palmer noted that the 2017 Bus Services Act enables Mayoral Combined Authorities to consider franchising as a potential option for bus service provision.

“This is something that will be fully explored by the strategic review,” he said at the time.

“I am excited by the review. As mayor, I am keen to do things differently and look at things afresh.

“This strategic review will enable us to take a proper look at the future of bus service provision in our area and how it is likely to develop and change over the years ahead.

“There are many options open to us that will hopefully enable us to play an active role in delivering better services to the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who rely on buses.”

More than five years, and with a new mayor since 2021, progress has been limited.

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